Can A Dairy-Rich Diet Help Weight Loss?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 6:57am

By Dena McDowell, MS, RD

A recent study at Purdue University found that there may be a connection to between diets high in dairy sources and accelerated weight loss. The original study looked at bone density and the effect of exercise in women. Researchers examined the food records and weights of these women throughout the study. In the end, the study showed that regardless of how active the women were, those who consumed more calcium through dairy products lost more body fat than their calcium deficient counterparts.

More studies link weight loss with dairy products

Another study at the University of Tennessee analyzed food records of people participating in a large United States food consumption study. The researchers found that women who consumed about 1300 milligrams of calcium from food sources were much less likely to be obese. Scientists are not exactly sure how dairy fits into the weight loss picture. It is hypothesized that calcium interacts with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a fatty acid that is thought to be connected to weight loss and lowering of body fat. Research shows that a lack of calcium stimulates the parathyroid hormone to raise the active form of vitamin D. Higher amounts of vitamin D causes Calcium to be pulled out of bones and stored in the fat cells. It is thought that the lack of calcium primes the fat cells to both store and decrease the amount of fat breakdown. The result is a greater amount of body fat. Dairy products contain calcium and CLA, leading researchers to conclude that a diet rich in dairy can potentially help shed extra body weight.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) 

CLA is a fat that is essential, meaning that the human body cannot make it. It must therefore be obtained through the diet. Nine different forms of CLA have been identified. This fatty acid is naturally found in meats, dairy, and plant oils to some extent. The average CLA consumption in the U.S. diet is one gram a day. It was first identified in 1983 when researchers at the University of Wisconsin identified CLA in fried hamburger meat to be potentially responsible for cancer fighting properties in a rat population. CLA is naturally present in milk, butter, beef and lamb.

More research is needed to detemine if weight loss can be linked with dairy products

A potential benefit of consuming a diet rich in calcium may be accelerated weight loss or a less chance of becoming overweight. More research, however, needs to be done in order to make a correlation between eating foods rich in calcium, CLA, and weight loss. Until studies show a concrete relationship between CLA and weight loss, it is important to remember that it is recommended to consume 3 servings of low-fat dairy per day to help protect your bones from osteoporosis.